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20 scariest players, physical freaks and real-life monsters in the NFL


We watch the NFL for fantasy numbers, civic pride, the strategy and maybe for a few friendly wagers.

Oh, and we watch the NFL for freakish displays of athleticism. Athlon Sports has assembled a list of real-life NFL “monsters.” By simply stepping on the field, these players put fear into opponents for one reason or another.


1. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Watt crawled from the primordial abyss — as a tight end at Central Michigan before being a walk-on at Wisconsin — to become the gnarliest, scariest player in the most frightening league on the planet. The 6'5", 295-pound 3-4 defensive end has an 82.5-inch wingspan and plays with a physicality and nastiness that makes him a menace to anyone in his path. Whether he’s stuffing the run, rushing the passer or swatting down passes from the line of scrimmage like he played for the Knicks (which Rex Ryan would prefer), Watt is a terror on the field. Through six games this season, Watt already has 9.5 sacks and eight pass deflections.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
JPP is the second-coming of the original "Freak" Jevon Kearse. His out-of-this-world athleticism has manifested itself in YoutTube sensational backflip competitions as well as a 16.5-sack second season in the league last year. The 6'5", 278-pounder has the ability to transcend the traditional job description of a defensive end, using his 81-inch wingspan, massive hands, quick-twitch speed and trampoline vertical leap to not only wrap up quarterbacks but also chase down running backs from behind and cover tight ends on zone blitzes.

3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
An opposing defender called Gronkowski “a new kind of monster.” The Gronk is a 6'6", 265-pound ball of uncontrollable energy who is just as likely to dance in the end zone in the afternoon as he is shirtless at the club later that night. Always the life of the party (on and off the field), Gronk cannot be stopped, he can only hope to be contained.

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4. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may not be the Ravens’ most invaluable defensive players — or the scariest. That honor belongs to Ngata, the 6'4", 340-pound D-tackle. Ngata turns the table on inevitable double-teams, engulfing his blockers and pushing them aside or towards the playmaker they are attempting to protect. Even more frightening, Ngata was once a beast of a rugby player. Come to think of it, the Ravens should use Ngata more at the goal line.

5. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
"Megatron" is a machine more than monster, as a 6'5", 236-pound athlete with the power to play defensive end, but the speed, hands and coordination to be arguably the best wide receiver alive. The laws of physics are defied by Johnson's sheer existence and his status as a human being (as opposed to futuristic cyborg) is up for debate.

6. Patrick Willis, MLB, San Francisco 49ers
P-Willie is slang for Mississippi sledgehammer. The 6'4", 240-pound Willis is the obvious heir to the Ray Lewis throne as the best middle linebacker in the game. Over the last three years, he’s the second most efficient tackler in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. More than that, Willis punishes ball-carriers with violent legal hits that reverberate in an opponent's memory bank, resulting in alligator arms over the middle and second-guessing which way to cut downfield. How scary is he? The New York Giants' Victor Cruz knows. "I've been hit by him too many times," says Cruz. "Too many. Way too many."

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7. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys
Ware is simply a 6'4", 254-pound Elephant pass rusher capable of stampeding backfields and goring opposing quarterbacks. Only Jared Allen has more sacks than Ware since the start of the 2009 season.

8. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
When this 5'9", 230-pound bowling ball coming screaming at defenders, they make a business decision to get out of the way or get knocked down like pin-heads. Six games into his rookie season, T-Rich from T-Town has 526 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

9. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
So dirty he will stomp you in front of everyone's grandmother on Thanksgiving Day, this man named Suh will shoot the gap and body slam a man just to watch him writhe. The Motor City's meanest man is also apparently a road-rager with bad intentions behind the wheel, as evidenced by his multiple car wrecks off the field and on the mean streets.

10. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Green rarely sees the fear in opposing defensive backs eyes because all he knows is wide open field in front of him. The 6'4", 207-pound wideout from Georgia already has 43 receptions for 628 yards and six touchdowns, numbers which will easily top his prolific production from his rookie season.

THE NEXT 10...

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Desmond Bishop, MLB, Green Bay Packers - Lambeau’s fearsome linebacker is out for the season. James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers - The linebacker is still hobbled, but he might be back to paying NFL-levied fines in no time.

Ray Lewis, MLB, Baltimore Ravens - The scariest player of his era may have played his last snap.

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers are awaiting the return of their soft-spoken big hitter.

Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets - Quarterbacks can finally test the whole field agains the Jets with Revis out.

Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings - The veteran pass rusher last season fell a half sack short of matching Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks in a season.

Brandon Browner, CB, Seattle Seahawks - Emerged from the Canadian Football League to become one of the NFL’s biggest hitters, and at 6-4 he has unusual size for a cornerback.

Richie Incognito, G, Miami Dolphins - The former Saints lineman is repeatedly accused for dirty play. He doesn’t seem to mind.

LaRon Landry, S, New York Jets - The safety plays with reckless abandon thanks to thundering head-first hits.

Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins - A 6-foot-7, 319-pound offensive tackle who was one of the best in the league since his rookie season.

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers - The sophomore campaign has yet to live up to the rookie effort, but he’s still a 6-5, 245-pound quarterback with ridiculous athleticism.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks - Have to give a shout out to a running back who refers to himself as being in “Beast Mode.”

Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers - Quarterbacks in his wake must also deal with the humiliation of being sacked by a defensive end with blonde flowing locks.

Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears - The defensive end who also played a little college basketball for the Tar Heels had 11 sacks in his ninth NFL season.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers - His size makes it a monster task to bring him down in the backfield.

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